Tiger Woods still thinks he can pass Jack Nicklaus as the most successful golfer ever, but Tiger Woods has no idea when he will return to competitive action.
The 14-time major champion maintains he is “progressing nicely” after a third back operation in October, but says he won’t resume his career until he can practice, play and recover with no ill effects.
And despite not having won a major since 2008, the 40-year-old still believes he can overhaul Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. The “Golden Bear” won his final three majors past the age of 40, including his famous 1986 Masters title as a 46-year-old.
“I think his major championship record is certainly still attainable,” Woods told reporters at a media day for the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National tournament that he hosts at Congressional Country Club in Maryland.
Woods is also keen to beat Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins — he lies second on the list with 79 titles, the last of which came in August 2013.
“It would be nice to end up at No. 1 on both lists,” he said. “That’s a long way away and it’s going to take time to get to that point but hopefully I can get back out here and play to that level.”
Woods has not played since last August, but sparked rumors of a return with a series of public demonstrations at various engagements over the last month.
But he admitted Monday he didn’t know whether his return would be “next week or a year from now” — and proved his rustiness by hitting all three of his wedge shots into the water during a mini par-three competition.
“People have written me off, I’m not that part, you know, I’m not fertilizer,” he said. “I’m getting better, just give it a little time. I’m looking forward to getting out here and competing.
“I’m hoping to play. I don’t know when — that’s the overriding question I keep hearing. If I knew, I would tell you. It would be fun to know. But I don’t know.
“I’m still trying to get stronger, more pliable. I am hitting the ball better. Everything about my game is coming around. It’s just a matter of being consistent with it, not just at home at Medallist but out here (on the PGA Tour). It’s just a completely different deal.”
Woods is well known for a punishing practice and fitness regime, but he said his injury has forced him to reassess his training schedule.
“I’m one of those guys used to practicing eight, 10 hours a day — I won’t be doing that,” he said. “I won’t be running 10 miles a day, either.
“My practices will be more focused. They have to be. I can’t hit 500 golf balls in a row. I need to be able to go out and play and recover every day. Until I feel comfortable doing that, I’ll make that decision (to return) then.”